How health, industrial and services cooperaitves contribute to reduce inequalities

On Wednesday 15 October, during the ICA International Conference held in Kigali, Rwanda, the parallel session hosted by CICOPA and IHCO looked at how health, industrial and services cooperatives can be key actors in reducing inequalities.

Íñigo Albizuri and Carlos Zarco, Presidents of CICOPA and IHCO respectively, opened the session, which included two roundtables. The first one featured CECOP-CICOPA Europe President Giuseppe Guerini; Japan Worker Cooperatives representative Osamu Nakano and CICOPA Americas President Luis Alves. They focused on the strengths of cooperatives in fighting discriminations and inequalities in access to social services and at the workplace.

The second roundtable discussed the role of cooperatives in ensuring healthy lives and reducing inequalities. Dr Zarco explained the intrinsic inverse correlation between health and inequity. Usually, the bad results for health indicators such as life expectancy, cardiac insufficiency rates and child mortality are closely related to the highest levels of social and income inequality. Likewise, health is essential for economic growth and to reduce inequality and poverty.

«As enterprises driven by values, not simply by economic profit, cooperatives are in an unrivalled position to improve the social determinants of health and reduce inequalities, thereby contributing to the 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals,» said IHCO President.

Two great examples of the potential of health cooperatives in the field of development were also presented at the session. Sarah Murungi recounted the experience of the Health Partners Uganda. This cooperative took advantage of the support of its US counterpart, to develop its own health service provision model in the West African country.

Meanwhile, Mirai Chatterjee detailed the success story of the Lok Swasthya Mandli cooperative, perhaps the first healthcare cooperative in India. Since 1990 with the support of the SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association), the organisation has been working in the field of primary care, health education and the distribution of medicines and India’s traditional medicine products.